A free beer from your mate is usually something you’d be happy about.
But Ricky Stuart hopes he’s the one shouting a cold one on Saturday night, not Craig Bellamy.
The NRL coaches will face off for a spot in this year’s grand final, with Bellamy’s Melbourne hosting Stuart’s Canberra at AAMI Park.
Only once before have they gone head-to-head at the helm in a finals match – in 2008, when a Stuart-led Cronulla lost to the Storm 28-0 in a preliminary final at Sydney Football Stadium.
But the pair go way back.
Back to the late 1980s and early 90s when they both played for the Raiders.
“We’re best of mates,” Stuart said.
They regularly share texts and phone calls and bag each other out.
Not even the ferocity of finals football can turn them into enemies, with the two still chatting throughout this week as they have done all season.
“Yeah, I’ve been talking to Craig,” Stuart said.
“I don’t enjoy coaching against him though.
“I prefer not to coach against friends, but it’s a bit different this week.
“We’ll just go about doing our jobs the best we possibly can for our clubs and we both hope we win.
“I want to beat Craig, he wants to beat me.
“But it’s not about us. We don’t have to play. It’s about the boys and we’ve just got to get them prepared as best we possibly can.”
Few other coaches in the NRL can appreciate, or even understand, the passion Stuart has for his club as much as Bellamy.
But, according to Stuart, the Storm mentor is no different and has plenty of purple pride.
“We’re pretty similar personalities Craig and I – although I’m a lot happier than Craig,” Stuart smiled.
No bets have been wagered between the pair, but there’s one tradition that will stand regardless who wins.
“The winner always goes into the other shed and takes a beer,” Stuart said.
“He’s been doing a lot of shouting over the past 10 years, so I hope I’m taking a beer into him.”
RICKY STUART V CRAIG BELLAMY:
Games played for Canberra – Stuart: 243 v Bellamy: 149
Head-to-head record as coaches: Stuart 5 v Bellamy 10
NRL games coached – Stuart: 318 v Bellamy: 366
NRL games won as coach – Stuart: 156 (49.1%) v Bellamy: 245 (66.9%)
NRL premierships as coach – Stuart: 1 (Sydney Roosters, 2002) v Bellamy 1 (Storm, 2012; stripped of titles in 2007 and 2009 for salary cap breaches)